Server hosting, moderation and spam

Personally, I think spam is pretty sodium inducing

It’s now over 12 years since I started running servers and taking administrator/moderation roles in various. It all started after I was playing Garry’s Mod 9 in 2006 when it was still a free mod, then in 2007 with the release of Garry’s Mod 10 on Steam I decided that I wanted to host my own server.

Ah, now that’s the Garry’s Mod 9 that I remember, as well as early 10.

It wasn’t easy, of course, turns out there were several steps in the way, namely port-forwarding failing, dynamic IPS being standard in my country so dedicated servers were difficult and getting people to join “Listen” servers I put up was unstable at best. I remember using LogMeIn Hamachi back in the old days to try and get people to joined. It worked, sometimes.

So I practically begged my father to let me have a dedicated server, he eventually caved on the condition that I forfeit all pocket money that I would normally get, which at the time was £2 per week. I got a 10 slot Garry’s Mod server that I ran as a sandbox server, and got my first taste of dealing with FTP and configuring things for that server.

It went pretty well, though one of the things you learn quickly as a new server owner is just how awful players can be and it soon becomes a lesson in how moderation works.

At the time I was 11 years old, and after dealing with multiple player-caused server crashes, took delight in catching griefers before they could damage anything and subjecting them to being ragdolled, set on fire and nailed to crosses in the game to be ‘crucified’ before being blown up and banned.

It seems a little cringy now, but there’s probably very little more annoying to a griefer than being played around with like some toy by a bunch of kids. It is no coincidence that admin mods at the time had many a variety of punishments to inflict on people who broke the rules.

Over time I branched out into various other things, including forums and blogs of sorts, and one of the major issues that always cropped up on top of dealing with griefers, trolls and edgelords was the topic of spam.

A fine example of what will happen to you too, if you don’t make efforts against it

Simply put, if you put a forum up and didn’t take any precautions to prevent spam, within a month you would have thousands upon thousands of bot accounts posting spam threads to affect google rankings per day. Spam-blockers weren’t so effective neither, as many would still get through and you’d spend a few hours a week having to clean them all up and delete accounts.

This is a problem that has only gotten worse with time, as you can often come across wordpress blogs like this one and observe that the comment sections have been flooded with mass amounts of spam, which disguise themselves as legitimate comments while at the same time including links to other sites to boost page rankings for search engines.

It’s the same kind of mechanism that used to be called “Google Bombing“, which was used to get certain pages to appear to certain searches. For example searching “More evil than Satan Himself” used to result in Microsoft as a top result.

This site alone has hit nearly 4000 spam comments since I put it up. There’s simply no realistic way for me to handle it myself manually, so I allow Akismet to stop incoming comments. Any that make it through akismet I review manually myself. But the problem is getting bigger and more concerning.

In particular, the appearance of authenticity for the technology behind these spam bots has been improving, and soon it will be almost impossible for an automated system to detect who is a human and who is a bot.

Captchas don’t even fix the problem either, getting more and more difficult over time as bots continue to improve, there’s very little left that can be done to prevent the encroaching spam problem. It may even come to a point where I have to de-activate comments, or even a Something Awful setup where if you’d like to post anything, first pay a dystopian fee.

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